Thursday, August 21, 2014

Continuing Anger

I wish my brain were a little bit more linear. I did start my last post on anger with a different agenda, but it developed into something else. However, I always seem to get side-tracked easily these days.

One of the reasons that people often enter the Anglican Continuum and subsequently leave is because they find that it seems so angry. There was a time not so very long ago in which I would have described the ACC as an "angry church". I don't think that I was unjustified in my views, mainly because I was just as angry. 

I said below that we should examine our anger before we act. It's a bit late now! However, we do need to ensure that if we have worked in anger that we should ensure that we repent of any sin that we have perpetrated and look to see where this leads us.

Of course, much of the anger among Continuing Anglicans stems from the the passion that we feel towards our heritage and the identity that we glean from the historical Anglican Church. The Anglican Communion has chosen to re-interpret traditional doctrines. We who are now in the Continuum simply do not accept that this re-interpretation is justified. Of course, such passion for God's Church ignites in anger. Some of us feel that we have been betrayed by the Anglican Communion. 

Is that irrational?

Surely any church leadership is free to re-interpret Christian doctrine? Isn't that what the Reformation was about?

Indeed, but look at the effect of the anger of all parties in the Reformation on the lives of sincere and well-intentioned Christians. Of course, this was the sixteenth century, and we can't attribute 20th century sensibilities to a different age and culture. 

The Reformation caused splits and schisms as Christians could not walk together. Lutheranism is different from Reformed Theology which is different from Presbyterianism, which is different from Anglicanism. No single body of Christianity is immune from Schism. The Roman Catholic Church may try to boast that she must be the true Church because she hasn't fractured into different parts believing different things. However, she owes her identity to the person of the Pope and whatever part of the Church the Pope belongs to, that will be the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the "one true nature" of the Roman Catholic Church does not reside in her inability to split, but rather in holding to the doctrine of the Modern Papacy. However, it has not been sufficiently proven that the Modern Papacy is a mark of the "one true Church". Given that many Roman Catholics in the West disagree with many traditional Roman Catholic doctrines (including Bishops!), there does seem to be another potential schism in the offing. There will be anger there because there is anger already. The SSPX was born in anger with Vatican II. 

There is always anger in any reformation. We are torn with trying to be what we are and yet lose something that we have already taken to be part of ourselves. In the Anglican Reformation in which the existence of the Continuum was revealed, we lost buildings, choirs,  congregations, friendships, aesthetics, and respect. There was bound to be anger and loss. It is also true that many Continuing Anglicans were actively forced out of the Anglican Communion by politicians and ecclesiarchs in that church because of their traditional beliefs. There is much anger there!

In this Anglican Reformation, the Continuum was revealed. I won't say that it came into being because it was already there. It is called the Continuum because it seeks to continue, in some way, the Anglicanism that was diverted off-track by the Anglican Communion. Logically, this means that the Anglicanism that is continued in the Continuum is going to be different from the Anglicanism of the Communion otherwise what is the point of the Reformation. Many branches of the Continuum have come into being simply because they have been continuing the aspects of the Anglican heritage which differ from others branches.

In the ACC, we are continuing the Catholic Faith as read through the lens of the original genius of Anglicanism which (very loosely) we see prevalent in the years 1543 to 1549 and especially in the Prayer-book of 1549. Of course, in the American ACC, that continuation is interpreted through the continued use of the 1928 prayer book which was a fundamental part of Anglicanism in America until it was legislated against in the dreaded 1979 prayer book. In England, our 1928 prayer-book was turned down by parliament. Our Anglican identity is markedly different from the Anglican identity of those in the U.S. Yet, we have something in common that we can continue together, namely the Catholic Faith of the Undivided Church. The ACC has, in its canons, the flexibility to ensure that each culture of Anglicanism that can be affirmed by the Catholic Faith can be allowed to continue. This rules out the prayer books of 1552, 1559 and 1662 because they reject the Real Presence and have a tendency towards Calvinism. 

This is all very well, but are we still angry? I think we are very passionate about what we believe, but we do have a sense of humour (especially in the DUK!!) The fact of the matter is that we do not want to allow the past to colour our relationships with other Churches negatively. We will get upset and hurt when we are denied the use of a building or barred for being a "break away" sect. That's usually because they do not understand us. Perhaps we need to be mutual in our attempts to understand.

It is also true to say that some branches of the Continuum exist simply because of angry men who have kept their jurisdictions apart from others for political reasons. These reasons are probably born in mistrust stemming from the anger. It takes one bishop who does not trust the jurisdiction in which he finds himself to take his diocese away and form another part of the Continuum. That also has happened.

The ACC is a sister church to the UECNA. The ACC is "high" Church and see its Anglicanism as being a largely cultural affair. The UECNA is a "low" Church who sees its Anglicanism in the full doctrine of the Prayer-book and its articles. There are differences of doctrine, yes, but there is much common ground. I hope that there will be a continued effort at rapprochement to help set an example to the rest of the Continuum.

We members of the Continuing Anglican Church do need to look very carefully at our anger and examine it carefully. Ultimately, we must all be striving for the happiness of each child of God in the world, and an unexamined anger will not bring that happiness about. I am sure that each branch of the Continuing Church is continuing some worthwhile aspect of Anglicanism even if we do not agree on what Anglicanism is. However, Anglicanism does presuppose Christianity which presupposes both the fallenness of humanity, the grace of God and the love that we must show to our brother and sisters. My hope is that, one day, we can bring all those aspects of Anglicanism back together and, as the pieces of the mirror untie, we might even see the face of God!

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